bellows construction success!

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by smieglitz, May 18, 2005.

  1. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    Hooray! I just finished making my first camera bellows and I'm very pleased with how it came out. It's for a wetplate collodion camera I'm also currently building.

    The bellows is a square design, 9.25" inside and 11.25" outside with 1" wide folds. It extends easily to 24" and compress to under 2".

    I'm thinking about writing a webpage illustrating the construction process for a square bellows if there is any interest in such an article. The other sources I've seen online and in books or magazine articles are all for building conical bellows.

    Here are some pics showing the bellows extended and compressed, with the foamcore form I used, and with a 35mm camera for scale:

    first bellows

    bellows and form

    compressed bellows

    Joe
     
  2. argus

    argus Member

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    Hey, nice work!
    The corner folds look smooth.

    What outer material did you use?

    G
     
  3. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    Joe, you did a great job with the bellows. Maybe you could do an write up here in APUG's article section. I would be interested.

    Regards,
    John
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Looks great! I'd love to see an article.
     
  5. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    Very nice looking work Joe! Well done!!
     
  6. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    Most excellent look! I'd like to hear more about your trials and tribulations on your construction.
     
  7. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Looks great, Joe. Congrats. Don't you love it when a (folding) plan comes together? :wink:
     
  8. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Please do a how-to on this one. I'd be interested in your choice of materials, cutting and glue you ended up using. Very nicely done. tim
     
  9. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Article please. What materials did you use and where did you get them? Excellent. Jim
     
  10. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    The outer material is a rubberized nylon fabric which Porter's Camera Store sells as "darkroom cloth". The inner liner material was 150 denier polyester matte black "Supersuede" from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics (owfinc.com). Stiffeners were cut from black posterboard and I used black foamcore for the form. I used automotive headliner spray cement to attach the stiffeners to the outer layer and 3M automotive trim adhesive spray to attach the inner liner to the stiffener/outer layer. DAP contact cement was used to cement the diagonal seam on the underside of the bellows. (Buy plenty of spray adhesive if you plan to try this. I used 2 full cans on this bellows.)

    It actually went together fairly easily once I figured out how I was going to glue it up. You need plenty of horizontal space for layout and construction, but otherwise, it was fairly easy and certainly worth the investment. I probably have about $60 into it of which $30 was the cost of the adhesives. I also used a fabric pencil, some masking tape, and a lot of paper towels to cover the surfaces when applying the adhesives. I figure a custom bellows this size would probably cost triple what I have into it. In addition to monetary savings, there is also the satisfacton of actually making it by hand.

    It took several hours to plan the bellows and draw the layout on the materials. Cutting the stiffeners was maybe a half hour and gluing them in place probably took an hour. At that point I let it sit overnight to set the adhesive. Applying the inner liner and then folding it took a matter of minutes to complete although I did let the attached liner sit under weight for about an hour before attempting to fold it.

    Now that I've done it and know what to do, I could probably make another bellows this large in a couple hours. Next one will be for a 5x7 Seneca Black Beauty and then perhaps the 8x20 Korona...

    Joe
     
  11. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    Here's a gif file showing a detail of the pattern I used to design the square bellows. (Note the pattern is different for a conical bellows.)

    layout pattern detail

    Dimension "A" is the width of the fold. Dimension "B" is the length of the inside opening of the bellows and dimension "C" is "B" - 1/8". Stiffeners are illustrated in gray tone. You need to have a 1/8" gap between all stiffeners in order for the bellows to fold properly.

    In this bellows the dimensions are:

    A = 1.00" (= width of corner fold)
    B = 9.25" (= inside dimension)
    C = 9.125" (= rectangular stiffener length...width is A - 1/8"...trapezoidal stiffeners formed by adding a 45-degree right triangle to both ends of the rectangular stiffeners.)
    exterior dimension = B + 2A =11.25"
    maximum extension ~ 24"
    minimum extension ~ 1.75"


    There are 15 pairs of stiffeners (30 total inches) for each of the 4 sides. This gives a comfortable extension of about 24" and the bellows compresses to less than 2" minimum. I planned the extension based on a dimension to get a life-sized, 1:1 magnification with a normal lens (~10.75") for the full plate format (6.5" x 8.5"). Thus, I wanted at least 21.5" extension and figured I'd need about 30% more length to achieve the proper extension. So 21.5" x 1.3 = 27.95" and so I rounded it upward to an even 30" hence the fifteen 1" pairs of stiffeners per panel. There is also an extra 3" of material at top and bottom to allow for attaching the bellows to a bellows frame which is then screwed onto the camera front and rear boxes.

    For this camera (under construction) the inside bellows opening was designed to allow the use of an 8.5" square #6 synched Packard Shutter mounted internally behind a large 8" lensboard. This shutter has a opening diameter of 5" and will allow the use of very large barrel portrait lenses (e.g., 18" f/4 Verito, 16" f/3.8 Vitax, etc.) on the camera. That's the reason a 9.25" inside square bellows was needed. It had to clear an 8.5" glass plate (horizontally and vertically) at the rear of the camera, and allow for the 8.5" square Packard Shutter and air fittings at the front.

    More to come...

    Joe
     
  12. argus

    argus Member

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    I've seen other bellows construction plans that look like a mess compared to yours. It looks like the folds and corners would like to get into place, compared wit Dough Bardell's method. I have already used the latter and experienced that it is almost impossible to get a (conical) bellows that is correct to the millimeter.
    Using individual stiffeners seems to be the key to get perfect folds. The trick with the punched holes and cutting out the grooves (see DB's website) will never result in all stiffeners being of equal height (i.e. 1-3-5-7-9... and 2-4-6-8-...) and perfectly symetrical.

    I don't know if your method (i.e. let the stiffeners run up into the corners) would work for a conical bellows. I'll give it a try next week. I've got a whole roll of brown wrapping paper to test.

    G
     
  13. skander

    skander Member

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    Hi all,

    I've finished a bellows as well a few days ago, for a 4x5" enlarger I'm building, and which is almost finished. I also found it very exciting and actually easy to fold it and see it come to life progressively!
    I'm rather astounded by the price of your bellows ($60). Mine have costed 4 euros. That was the price of 45x100 cm of black and thick adhesive, the one you find in the wallpaper section of shops. The rest was just some cardboard and a matte black aerosol painting for the inside.
    The size of the bellows : 16x13cm, and it extends from 6 to 35 cm.

    I've followed an old article I've found on the web :

    <a href="http://www.cyberbeach.net/~dbardell/bellows.html">
    http://www.cyberbeach.net/~dbardell/bellows.html </a>

    Cheers,

    Skander
     
  14. lesdix

    lesdix Member

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    Hi

    Skander, any chance of more information about building your 4 x 5 enlarger? Is this a build from square one or have you adapted an old camera?
    I have always felt the problem with moving up to 4 x 5 was having to buy an enlarger as well as the camera. Somehow the idea of building a 4 x 5 enlarger seems less daunting than building the camera itself.

    Cheers

    Les
    (Newcastle upon Tyne, England)
     
  15. skander

    skander Member

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    Actually, I've found an old Durst 805 6x9 enlarger. It lacked the condensers,
    bulbs ... only the skeleton remained, with nice and sturdy column and baseboard.
    The head was large enough to allow a hole to be made for a 4x5 neg carrier,
    which I did.
    It had no bellows but a large cylinder, at the end of which you put the lens,
    and this cylinder screws into the head. Screwing or unscrewing moves the lens
    nearer or further from the film plane, but it was not able to move far enough
    for long focal lenses (135 or 150mm) to be used. I then made a bellows to be
    placed between the cylinder and the head.
    The main issue was, as always, the light source. As I don't have any condenser
    nor the ability to build one, I first wanted to buy a 4x5 head, but it proved
    rare and expensive, so I planned to put a garden halogen lamp over the head,
    and diffuse the light with some ground glass. I placed aluminium sheet on the
    inside sides of the head to reflect the light, but though there was a big fall-off
    in the corners. I then changed the light source : I drilled 5 holes in a small
    board, in which I placed five 60 W krypton bulbs. Four are placed in the corners,
    the fifth in the center. Between the neg and these bulbs, I placed what I have
    found to be the best diffuser screen, both for the homogeneity of the diffusion
    and the little quantity of light it absorbs : a simple sheet of tracing paper.
    The last problem was that it was far too hot with 300 W, and some plastic parts were melting. Hence
    I placed two
    computer fans : one vertical behind the neg carrier and the tracing paper which
    blows air inside the head, and one horizontal over the bulbs, which pumps the
    air from the head to the outside. It perfectly works : the bulbs can stay on as
    long as I want.

    It's nearly over : I thought it was but it remains to seal all the light leaks,
    and to print the first tests! So far, I've only one concern : the fans induce
    some vibrations, though they were fastened with flexible materials. It's hardly
    noticeable, but I fear it might affect the sharpness of the print. I'll have to try, probably in a few days, to know.

    I probably will post some photos and comment the results in a thread if all goes well...

    Skander
     
  16. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    Thanks. Actually, when I tore apart the old conical Burke and James bellows I had, I saw the trapezoidal stiffeners ran into the corners. The difference was that an entire side panel would have pairs of trapezoids and the other two sides didn't extend into the corners. (The stiffeners on those two sides were also trapezoidal rather than rectangular but with angles more like 75+15+90 for the right triangle.) I could see why one wouldn't want the stiffeners to extend all the way into the corners for all four panels because the thickness of the corner folds would almost double in thickness as a result. However, I couldn't see any reason not to alternate the trapezoidal pairs with the rectangular pairs other than it took a bit longer to lay down the alternating pattern. I thought the alternation might add some additional stability for both the vertical and horizontal panels and also make the corners more stable. It may have added to the ease at which the folding occurred. I don't know this for sure since I've never made another bellows previous to this one where I could compare methods. I expected the folding to be the most difficult part based on what I've read, but I was surprised at what turned out to be the easiest part of the construction.

    Joe
     
  17. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    Well, let's double-check keeping in mind this bellows required about 2.5 times the surface area of yours:

    ~36" x 48" rubberized darkroom cloth @ ~$25
    ~36" x 48" liner material @ ~$8
    1 can automotive headliner spray ~ $8
    1 can automotive trim adhesive spray @ ~ $13 (I was surprised at this cost)
    ~ 500ml contact cement @ ~ $6 (IIRC...didn't use much of the can though)
    4 sheets posterboard for stiffeners @ ~ $5
    2 sheets black foamcore for the form @ ~$11 (didn't really need this but it was helpful.

    That brings the cost to about $76 not counting various sundries like the fabric pencil, and masking tape and paper towels used to keep the glue off surfaces. IIRC, the last bellows I purchased was around $380 plus overseas shipping costs for one about 19" square x 52" long for an 11x14 camera. So, the material cost for a handbuilt one that size would quadruple, but still save me around $100. Not a great savings considering the time involved, but I'm enjoying the fact I made the bellows myself. Once I get the camera built and start pouring my own glass plates, I'll be as close to making a photograph from scratch as I can get without becoming a chemist. (And so much for the digital vs film debate as far as I'm concerned.)

    For the next bellows, I think I'll use headliner spray exclusively since it seemed to bond better, was less expensive than the other spray, and easier to apply than the contact cement. The contact cement also soaked into the liner fabric which was more porous and required several coats and a longer time to cure.

    Joe
     
  18. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    So, you're basically saying that, once you've done one or two, you could (even accounting for cost of materials) make something like $40/hr making these things? Tell me more!!
     
  19. argus

    argus Member

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    I bet the market isn't big enough to make a living out of it but it sure would pay for some film and chemicals.

    G
     
  20. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    I wouldn't quit my day job.

    This took a lot of space and was pretty messy with some not-so-good-for-you adhesive fumes in the air. It might make a nice cottage industry if you had enough space and ventilation, assuming the demand was there.

    And, although this one came out very nice, it isn't perfect and as good as it looks, it looks homemade. The bellows I ordered from Camera Bellows, Ltd. in England is absolutely perfect. It's like comparing anything handmade and crafted (woven rugs, ceramics, etc.) to something machine-made.

    As Frank Zappa once crooned: "Is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?"

    Joe
     
  21. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    FYI --I found another interesting site on Bellows making Rhodes Camera

    There are also instructions on making a bag bellows. He recommends an adhesive called "Tear Mender" from Val-A Co. It is latex based for fabric, strong, flexable and does not add bulk to the bellows. Looks interesting. He also has materials suggestions for thin materal.